Posts tagged with "oceans":

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University of Miami is now home to world's largest hurricane simulator

Architects at Boston's CambridgeSeven have recently completed work on a sea study lab that includes the world's largest hurricane simulator. The 86,000-square-foot space, part of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, was pummeled by 2017's Hurricane Irma, but its ultra weatherproof design enabled the building to survive the storm relatively unscathed.

Perhaps the most distinctive component of the facility, officially known as Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater (MTLSS) Research Complex, is its hurricane simulator. The two-story storm room holds the SUrge-Structure-Atmospheric INteraction (SUSTAIN) lab, three wave and wind tanks that researchers deploy to ravage model cars and homes so they can better predict the path of hurricanes and understand the physics behind storm strength.

During Irma, the facility was subjected to the conditions it was built to study, and after the Category 4 storm subsided, the wind and wave tanks became temporary homes for fish from other labs displaced by flooding. In spite of—or perhaps owing to—natural disasters like Irma, though, the MTLSS complex maintains a strong connection to the sea: Water from Biscayne Bay is filtered for heat and cooling purposes, as well as purified for use in the facility's overflow-resistant seawater tanks, which together hold 38,000 gallons. The entire three-story facility, which includes offices and classrooms in addition to labs, is raised 15 feet above ground, a flood-proofing must in Miami.

A video released by the University of Miami goes on a deep dive into the facility:
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Last stop! Subway cars dumped into the Atlantic to create artificial reef

At first glance, this may look like state-funded environmental pollution: New York's Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) regularly dumps unwanted subway cars into the Atlantic. However, these New York City subway cars are now a happy home for fish. The MTA aims to create artificial marine environments, similar to those created by sunken ships, that will foster aquatic life. While most of this activity has gone under the radar, the MTA has been dumping subway cars since the turn of the 21st century. To date, after ten years worth of dumping, 2,400 subway cars currently lie on the ocean floor. Man-made reefs are nothing new, either. U.S. fishermen have engaged in the practice since the 1830s using structures of logs joined together. Turning relics to reefs with other refuse quickly followed; now unwanted subway cars turn the barren stretches of the eastern Atlantic seaboard into thriving habitats. The subway car shells create surfaces upon which oysters, clams, barnacles, and vegetation can live and grow. They also provide useful hiding places for fish that would otherwise be easy prey in the open ocean, all of which is good news for local fishermen. The move from the MTA appears to be a stroke of financial genius, too. While dumping subway cars into the ocean is convenient, the nonprofit Ocean City Reef Foundation has also paid $600 per car to ship them 30-hours away from NYC and create the reef. So far, six states have jumped on the bandwagon, and Michael Zacchea, director of the MTA Artificial Reef Program, describes it as "the ultimate form of recycling." Additionally, Jeff Tinsman, Delaware's reef program coordinator, has stated that fishing activity has seen a 30,000 percent increase in the vicinity of the artificial reefs. Myrtle Beach is a hotspot for the subway cars: that's where the MTA unceremoniously dumps them off a barge with the help of a mechanical arm. Now at their final final stop, they'll lay there for approximately 40 years with some cars having been in service just 10 days prior. Despite the project's praise and apparent success, there has been skepticism, notably from the National Resources Defense Council. They say the scheme has "less to do with conserving fish than saving and making money. Sport fishers and divers have actively lobbied for artificial reefs for the fish and tourism dollars they can attract. And, by donating old equipment to the cause, private industries and governments save millions of dollars." "You can basically put anything in the ocean and call it a reef as long as it stays there," says scientist Kristin Milligan. It's also worth mentioning Osborne Reef catastrophe, which saw thousands of car tires dumped with good intentions, ultimately required cleanup by the U.S. military.
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This Ocean Cleanup system runs virtually without power, hopes to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years

Ridding the oceans of plastic waste is no longer an ecologist’s pipe dream. The Ocean Cleanup system, designed by 20-year-old aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat, is soon to be deployed off the coast of Tsushima Island in the Korea Strait. At 6,600 feet in breadth, it will be the longest floating structure ever deployed on the ocean and yet be sufficiently energy-efficient as to sustain itself and even generate profit. The contraption harnesses the ocean’s natural gyres (five circular currents throughout the world’s oceans—two in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific, and one in the Indian Ocean), to trap plastic flotsam. It uses a seawater processing station fixed to the seabed to collect waste as the ocean moves around it. The station will have large booms instead of nets to allow marine life to safely pass beneath the system. The stationary platform itself will be powered by solar energy or kinetic energy derived from the current. According to Slat, the accumulated plastic may even be sold to make the model profitable, or converted into oil provided that the plastic has sufficiently degraded. The Tsushima government is currently investigating the feasibility of the latter. Data from the Ocean Surface CURrent Simulator (OSCURS) projects that the Ocean Cleanup can eliminate 7,991 tons of plastic within five years. “According to current estimations—due to the plan’s unprecedented efficiency—the recycling benefits would significantly outweigh the costs of executing the project,” Slat wrote on his website. TsushimaCamera6_5K copy The project has thus far completed a feasibility study, a crowd-funded pilot phase in the neighborhood of $2.1 million and will be deployed in the second quarter of 2016 in waters bisecting Japan and Korea. Within five years, Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy a 62-mile-long system to passively clean up 42 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California within 10 years. The trash vortex is made of a concentration of microplastic particles which float on or a few feet beneath the water, giving it the appearance of a cloudy soup. Thus the patch itself is not visible via satellite imagery. Slat’s “passive” scalable array of floating barriers affixed to the seabed covers millions of square feet without moving an inch. By contrast, using vessels and nets would take 79,000 years, tens of billions of dollars, and generate carbon emissions. Seeing as no nets are used in The Ocean Cleanup, the entanglement of fish and mammals is "virtually impossible."

Straphangers with Fins

For years, the MTA has been dumping decommissioned subway cars into the ocean to create artificial reefs for marine life. If you've ever wondered if it works, YouTube appears to have the answer. This video shows fish and a giant turtle swimming amid old red bird subway cars. The juxtaposition of the natural and manmade in such an unlikely location is a delight to watch. Next stop, the ocean floor! (via Huffington Post).